Search This Blog

Wednesday, March 21, 2007's Jeff Goodman - He's Going to Get Hate Mail From Memphis

Tigers in Sweet 16, but are they any good?
Jeff Goodman /

NEW ORLEANS - Memphis remains Team Mystery.

John Calipari's club is headed to the Sweet 16, still as a big question mark after playing in the pedestrian one-bid Conference USA and drawing a pair of mid-majors, North Texas and Nevada, in the first two rounds of the Big Dance.
Not a whole lot has changed.

The Tigers aren't the only team that has claimed two mid-major victims in its road. Ohio State, Oregon and Pittsburgh have each done it, but all three of those schools have faced formidable conference slates in the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Big East.

Memphis hasn't really played anyone of note all year. They have reeled off 24 straight wins, but they've largely come against the likes of East Carolina, SMU and Marshall.

"Everyone's been saying that we don't play anyone since I got here," Memphis sophomore forward Robert Dozier said. "We're not worried about that. It's not an issue. Our second team is probably as good as other teams in our league or in the tournament."

Calipari's first team has gone up against just one team still alive in the Sweet 16 - Tennessee.

The Vols beat up on Memphis, 76-58, back on Dec. 6.

The Tigers' most notable victory of the entire season came against a weak Kentucky team that was bounced easily by Kansas in the second round. They also got past a Gonzaga club that had not only just lost Josh Heytvelt for the season, but was also coming off a loss to Santa Clara.

Calipari spoke about how Nevada should have been higher than a No. 7 seed, but how would he really know nowadays? He's stuck in a conference that just plain stinks right now. He doesn't know how good the elite teams are because the only time he sees them is from afar — on TV.

The Tigers are athletic. We know that much. They are also unselfish and have impressive team chemistry.

Unlike the team a year ago, this one can really pass the ball. But can they shoot it?

Calipari's newest technique to try and get his players on target from the foul line has worked — at least temporarily. They knocked down 26-of-34 free throws in the 78-62 win over Nevada. That's 76.5 percent, compared to the horrendous 61 percent the Tigers shot in the first 33 games of the year.

Cal has told the team to visualize making free throws instead of actually practicing them. Maybe they should also visualize having played someone real in the last three months and the players can gain a false sense of optimism when they face Texas A&M in the Sweet 16.

Memphis beat a quality Nevada team, but Mark Fox's Wolf Pack squad isn't an elite team. He's got three talented players, but let's not start comparing Nevada to the Aggies just yet.

The Tigers will have to head to San Antonio and play Texas A&M. The game against Nevada was virtually a home game with the Memphis contingent driving the handful or so hours to New Orleans to support their guys.

Now it's going to be the opposite. Billy Gillispie's team will have the fans on their side.

The news gets even worse. Chris Douglas-Roberts, the team's top scorer, won't be at full strength after spraining his left ankle midway through the second half and walking out of the arena with a boot on his foot.

"If he can't go, he can't go," Calipari said. "We don't know yet."

Calipari has some depth, but has been going only eight deep lately. Douglas-Roberts plays the most minutes and score the most points. Calipari points to the fact that they've won without CDR before this season.

But that was against East Carolina and Tulsa.

Not Texas A&M.

"Everyone has doubted us," Memphis sophomore guard Antonio Anderson said.

For good reason.

Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for He can be reached at

No comments: